One of the joys of working in a town like Saranac Lake, and at an organization like HSL, is that you never know who you might meet. Today, Dick Demerse just about made our week with a visit. Dick, who probably knows more about local history than I ever could imagine knowing, has been a mainstay at Trudeau Institute for more than 45 years and before that he worked on antique boats at many camps in the area. As if that wasn't enough, Dick also shared some memories of working at Hotel Saranac. Since we have hotel fever here at HSL, we were all ears!
Returning home from World War II, Dick found himself in need of a job and, because so many war veterans were already back in the United States, he found jobs a bit scarce. Enter Eleanor Munn, the manager of the Hotel Saranac and, in Dick's words, "a real peach." Although Dick had no hotel experience, Eleanor was a great friend to many returning veterans and she gave Dick a job: "hopping bells" as he puts it. Mrs. Munn explained to Dick that the job was important, as bellhops were "the best ambassador for the hotel we have," and he took her words to heart. Dick says he was polite, met a lot of great people and that it was "the best job I ever had." Some of Dick's best memories include the tremendous 1947 Serralles-Montalvo wedding, the guests for which took up four floors of rooms, and his adventures operating the elevator.
Dick had a good laugh relating one particular story about "hopping bells:" at the time, bellhops were paid $15 a week, but after a state inspector came by and found out that the bellhops were operating the elevator (which at that time still involved a hand crank and the need to stop the elevator at precisely the right spot), in addition to all of their other duties, he insisted that the hotel pay the young men the standard rate for elevator operators: $19 a week. This dramatic raise was surely appreciated by the hardworking bellhops.
To commemorate Dick's surprising and wonderful visit to HSL today, we snapped a photo of him with Hotel Saranac in the background. We're planning another visit with Dick to chat more about his experiences around Saranac Lake, and at the hotel in particular, so make sure you check this page for updates, as well as on our facebook page.
P.S.: Do YOU have stories about working at Hotel Saranac or other local hotels? We want to hear from you! Please email email@example.com or call us at (518) 891-4606 and ask for Aurora.
Historic Saranac Lake is developing the Cure Porch on Wheels, an exciting mobile exhibit space that will allow HSL to present mini exhibitions and oral history projects to audiences at locations throughout the area.